Area Muslims shared their religious beliefs and answered questions at an open forum Sunday afternoon at the Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau.
A variety of topics were discussed during the three-hour event, free copies of the Quran were passed out and samples of ethnic dishes were available.
Guests were invited to enter the mosque to see where the Islamic Center members pray each Friday afternoon -- in cities with a much larger Muslim population, the mosque is open for prayer five times during the day.
Manal Wadi, a member of the Islamic Center, gave tours through the mosque and pointed out a curtain in the middle of the room that separates the men from the women during prayer. The genders are separated to minimize distractions in the mosque.
She explained the five pillars of Islam -- the declaration of faith, prayer, fasting during the month of Ramadan, which starts on Sept. 24, Zakah or a proportionately fixed contribution based on income and Hajj, or pilgrimage, to the Kabah, a mosque in the city of Mecca (Makkah) in Saudi Arabia, once a lifetime.
During the open forum, Islamic members said terrorism should not be associated with the Islamic religion.
Islam is an Arabic word meaning peace, purity, acceptance and commitment -- Muslims condemn all acts of terrorism, including 9-11, said Musa Wadi, Manal's husband.
The media portrays a very negative image of Islam and Muslims, Musa Wadi said. "Islam is against any acts of terrorism and is against any weapons of mass destruction," he said. "Terrorism is not associated with any religion -- not Muslim, not Jewish, not Christian -- a terrorist is a terrorist."
Musa Wadi also discussed the life and legacy of the prophet Muhammad.
At the age of 40, the prophet Muhammad started receiving his first revelations from God. He received these revelations until the age of 63 and the revelations were written down to form the Quran, Musa Wadi said.
Islamic traditions include a number of instances when the Muhammad had the opportunity to strike back at those attacked him but refrained from doing so.
Muslims are taught the tradition of a woman who would regularly throw trash on Muhammad as he walked down a particular path. The prophet never responded to the woman's abuse. One day when she failed to attack him because she was sick, he went to her home to inquire about her condition.
"Even when the prophet was in a position of power, he chose the path of kindness and reconciliation," Musa Wadi said.
Musa Wadi said traditional stories like this are important to Muslims as there is outrage in the Islamic world over cartoons, initially published in a Danish newspaper, that are viewed as intentional attacks on Muhammad.
"All the violence is very political right now," said Iffat Khan, member of the Islamic Center.
Khan also explained that Muhammad had several wives, the youngest being almost 12 years old and the oldest 40.
"He had more than one wife to help spread the religion to different tribes," Khan said.
Muslims believe in one God and in all prophets. They believe in angels, heaven and hell and a day of judgment.
"Christianity is very similar to the Islamic religion," Musa Wadi said. "Insulting Jesus is also insulting to Muslims."
This is one of several open forums the Islamic Center has held in the past few years. More than 50 people attended Sunday's event.
"It's always good to open up the doors of communication and to share our beliefs," said Manal Wadi.
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